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Thirty Seconds Of Hope: At The Red Signal

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Madam ji, gulab le lo, sirf dus rupaiye”, saying this, a hand clutching a pair of red roses sneaked in through the window of the auto-rickshaw I was sitting in. It was a traffic signal at Hauz Khas (Delhi) which just turned red when the auto I took had to pass the lane. Damn it. I had to reach Katwaria Sarai positively at 10:00 am and it was already five minutes to ten while the journey takes at least fifteen long minutes. It seemed like thirty seconds of the wee tot time I had to reach my destination, was wasted by the traffic light. Indeed, this was in accordance with the lyrics of the song christened “Ironic” which said “traffic jam, when you’re already late”.

I let out a sigh at the thought of this while another hand came in through the same window, to bring me back to consciousness, importuning me to buy a toy airplane, which I was sure I do not need. I shook my head, in a stringent manner in order to shoo the twosome off.

The duo had scarcely left when another face appeared at the other side of the auto, who extended his arms to show hand-fans which were of “barhiya quality” in his opinion. Ridiculed by the hot weather of mid-June and the unmoving vehicles, my absorption obliged me to say the words “how irritating” while I wiped the perspiration that poured off my forehead. The vendor left outright with a scornful look in his eyes for me whilst I realized that my words offended him; and although this disdainful act of mine was entirely unintentional but it left me remorseful for the rest of the day.

I looked for the person, through the window but in vain. All that I saw was cars and auto-rickshaws awaiting the traffic-light to turn green, which now showed fourteen seconds left.

These vehicles were surrounded by small children and men who were striving to win over the people inside the vehicles, pronouncing that the products they were selling were of the best quality available in the market. More children-vendors were running towards us with smiles on their innocent faces. Their beaming eyes were telling their common story. This busy city, which never halts for anything or anyone, where thousands of vehicles hurry down this route in an hour, the traffic signal turns red for only half a minute which seems like ages; and in these thirty seconds they live a lifetime.

They wait all day for a sign of red and that red luminance enlightens their faces with hope; hope of getting their products sold, hope of earning a ten-rupee note or two, hope of getting a square repast, hope of earning enough amount to be saved so that one day they can attend school too without worrying about the hungry babies on the laps of their weeping mothers.

They must not be pitied upon; they are not beggars but earners, a part of the proud flesh and blood who work for a living. So, how are they different than us? The rich populace may be clad in expensive attire but so are these poor vendors clad in priceless dignity. Indeed, we are educated and they are not, but what is the use of this education if we cannot tell apart the earners and the beggars, if we do not respect the poor, if we do not care for our fellow-beings, if we demoralize them by not buying their inexpensive items, if we do not help them to lead a better future? It is not that we cannot, it is just that we do not; it is just that we get so busy in our lives that we seldom think about others.

A chill ran down my spine when I viewed myself with their perspective and the face of the hand-fan-vendor appeared again, insisting the passenger of the auto standing in front of mine, to buy one of his hand-fans.

I instantaneously called him and took out a ten-rupee note from my purse to buy one of those fans. He turned towards me and with a hesitating look, commenced to approach me. I was glad he did and I extended my arm in a manner to hand him the currency note.

And just when that person put out his hand to give me a fan and accept the note, the traffic signal turned green, the auto-rickshaw engine started and the vehicle drove off. I shouted, “Stop” but the driver laughed my worried cry off and said “Kya Madam ji, aage aur aise pankhe mil jayenge”.

I looked through the window behind my seat only to realize that I had offended that vendor all over again…
[box bg=”#fdf78c” color=”#000″]About the author: Sanhita Baruah is a final year engineering student who writes fictions and poetry for her blog titled Pens and Pages . Her works have also appeared in e-zines like Fried Eye, Word Splash, Campus Writing, etc.[/box]

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

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Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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